The £100m Man Utd transfer bid failure that could see England win Euro 2024
Manchester United were left disappointed in the pursuit of a long-term transfer target last summer - but it could have a massive pay-off for England.
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He was at it again on Saturday evening. A little over a quarter of an hour in and there he was, lurking with polite intent in the six-yard box, waiting patiently for his moment, leaping like a celebratory astronaut when it eventually came.
Harry Kane has now scored nine times in just eight Bundesliga matches and looks like a man improbably reborn. At no point during his fairytale Tottenham career did he exactly struggle with any kind of goalscoring impotence, but ever since he did the unthinkable and joined Bayern Munich in a £100 million deal over the summer, he has seemingly unlocked whole new levels to his prowess. In fact, the only player to have outscored him in the German top flight this season is VfB Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy, whose freakish return of 14 efforts in eight outings somehow manages to dwarf Kane’s own monstrous output. Evidently a life in lederhosen suits the England captain.
But things, of course, could have been so very different. For a long while it felt as if, in the event of a painful separation from Spurs, Kane’s most likely destination would be Manchester. First there was City’s interest - tangible, palpable, and only truly ended by the arrival of that flaxen-haired killbot Erling Haaland. Then there was United, initially aspirational in their pursuit but eventually one of the very few viable Premier League options left open to the striker.
The reasons why Kane decided against a life of Sisyphean turmoil at Old Trafford are fairly obvious, especially with the benefit of hindsight. A stint at Bayern affords him something close to guaranteed silverware, and any doubts over his ability to adapt to a new culture have swiftly and unequivocally been dispelled. By contrast, United have once again stumbled into the doldrums during the early knockings of the new campaign, and given the holistic nature of their ongoing tribulations, you can’t help wondering whether a presence even as auspicious as Kane’s would be making too much of a difference.
And then there is a phenomenon that we shall tentatively christen ‘The Curse of the Red Devil’. For seasons now, United have made a habit of spending big on surefire success stories only to slowly disfigure them into ineffectual laughing stocks. Those recently afflicted have included Romelu Lukaku, Jadon Sancho, and, arguably the greatest victim of them all, Ol’ Slabhead himself, Harry Maguire. Why this the case, nobody can say for certain, but statistically-speaking, had Kane actually signed for United over the summer, there is an 87% chance that he would already have been deemed an exorbitant flop, and that his xG would be soundly eclipsed by his xP-WME (expected pitchfork-wielding mobs encountered).
Of course, that is counterfactual facetiousness, but the reality is that instead of being dulled by the Mancunian rain, he looks sharper than he ever has before over in Germany. And that can only be a good thing for England as their own attentions turn to the continent. With European Championship qualification sealed, and with the usual weight of expectation beginning to creak in its tethers, the Three Lions will know that so many of their hopes next summer rest on the captain’s shoulders. Kane is the greatest goalscorer in our country’s history, and one of a smattering of English players capable of winning a match single-handedly. He is influential to the point of irreplaceable, and if he can continue his current form over the remainder of the campaign and into next year’s tournament - held on German soil, by the way - then England’s chances of lifting a first major international trophy since 1966 will spike dramatically.
It’s also worth noting that Kane, who has struggled with injuries in the past, should have a signiciantly easier ride of it this season ahead of the Euros - given that top tier clubs in Germany play in one cup competition, the DPB-Pokal, in comparison to the rigours of both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup campaigns he would be facing in England. On top of that, the Bundesliga afford its stars a winter break twice the length of that in the Premier League, keeping those precious hamstrings in prime condition for the upcoming summer tournament.
Already we have seen evidence of his domestic purple patch bleeding into his international contributions. His recent brace against Italy - including a masterful second in which he streaked away from the chasing defence, shrugging of challenges with a nonchalant physicality - was the hallmark of a striker at the very zenith of his powers. At the venerable age of 30, Harry is threatening to evolve into a kind of Kane 2.0 - more assured, more impactful, more lethal. Who knows, splice in a dash of confidence from a first-ever piece of career silverware and he could become truly omnipotent.
Kane has always been somewhat inevitable, especially in an England shirt. But as his grip on the larynx of the European game tightens, so too might the Three Lions’. We can but hope...